Archive for the ‘Cold’ Category

A matter of degrees

January 26, 2023

Bare trees, gray light. Oh, yeah, it was a cold night.

We’re still in the freezer section here in The Duck! City.

The thermometer has been pegged at 13° since I got up way too early this morning because I was feeling chilly even in the bed, which Miss Mia Sopaipilla appropriated after I had adjusted the thermostat (and provided her a couple helpings of kibble, a tuna-water ice cube, and a soupçon of butter from my morning toast).

“I’d like my meals delivered, please.
As in ‘now.'”

Of course, 13° ain’t shit to you stolid Midwesterners, Canucks, and other polar explorers. And my man Hal reports minus-11° this morning at his compound in our old stomping grounds of Crusty County, which makes me miss the place not at all, not one itty-bitty bit.

I remember stuffing chunks of cedar, oak, and aspen into our Weirdcliffe woodstove like a Vegas bluehair shoving nickels into a one-armed bandit. But Hal can’t even do that, because his stove is on the DL.

Thus he burns propane and electricity like a city feller while he awaits parts for his wood-burner, a Drolet Outback Chef, some Quebecer deal with an Eyetalian overlay.

I don’t suppose Hal will pass the time by reading the continuing adventures of The Count of Mar-a-Lago, now available on Twatter and Buttface. But he does have a perverse streak. How many people do you know who cook their meals on a woodstove in the the Year of our Lard 2023?

Sun’s out, guns out

January 19, 2023

Looks cold up there. Let’s stay down here.

The weather turned a wee bit brisk this week. January can be that way, even in The Duck! City, with hired assassins throwing hot lead at decent people’s houses.

When we’re talking 30-something with wind and gloom outside, I’ll stay inside, or lace up the running shoes and go pound ground for a while. A short while. I’m not training for anything other than staying above the auld sod a while longer.

I’ve gone running twice this week, and stayed indoors once. But today the sun was out. Just 35 degrees, to be sure, but still; big yellow ball in sky. Which it apparently will not be tomorrow. Cloudy, cold, windy, 50 percent chance of snow, yadda yadda yadda. In other words, January.

Snow on the Crest, mud on the trails. But hey, the sun was out, and so was I.

With that in mind, I layered up, grabbed the Co-Motion, and got out there. Not for long, mind you, but I was riding a 30-pound touring bike on singletrack, so extra credit, please.

When I climbed off to take this photo some dude wearing VeloNews kit soldiered on by. I didn’t recognize him, but then I wouldn’t, having walked away from that low-speed crash back in 2016.

It took them six years and a change of ownership to stop sending me free copies of the magazine, which kept shrinking like a solo breakaway’s lead on a long, flat stage. I sold all the kit on eBay.

A Muskrat in winter

December 19, 2022

Is that a well-digger’s ass flying south for the winter?

The furnace grumbles to life at 5:33 and requires exactly five minutes to trudge uphill to its planet-friendly yet unimpressive thermostatic peak of 65 degrees.

Still, this is more than twice as warm as it is outside, so I should be thankful. I have a furnace — actually, two of them, one for each side of the house! — and a great big bed with lots and lots of covers. Also, a house to keep them in. It has been the better part of some time since I begged a kip on a couch or in a pew, or shivered in a greasy fartsack under the topper of a pickup truck.

This momentary lapse into gratitude doesn’t stop me from thinking it might be time to consider sleeping in pajamas, or at least a T-shirt and shorts. Maybe a cap. Sweatpants. And wool socks. Sixty-five degrees is one thing on a white sandy beach and another in a dark bedroom at the foot of the Sandias, squinting through the blinds at the banana moon night-lighting the back yard.

Over coffee I note that E. Long Muskrat has yet to quit shitting in his newest sandbox, though his own survey — “Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll.” — went strongly against him.

While giving him the thumbs down last night Herself asked innocently, “Can we vote more than once?” She has not been locked out of her account. Yet. Me, I maintained radio silence.

It doesn’t matter, not really. CEO or no, the Muskrat would still own the Twithole and would have to hire some poor sap to run it for him.

That would be a dream job, hey? About like being handed a push broom and being told to sweep up the debris in the Monfort lane through the Big I at drunk-thirty on Black Friday.

Or maybe it’s more like being assigned to clean the hyena cage while the hyena is still in it. Before feeding time.

I don’t know why I find this penny-dreadful drama amusing. I haven’t used the service in five years. In fact, I’ve croaked nearly all my social-media accounts, save for LinkedIn, which I keep around like an ugly sweater I’m never going to wear, no matter how cold it gets.

There’s just something fascinating about watching the gods behaving badly. They always do. Gods have the morals and manners of spoiled children pitching a bitch in the Wholeazon Amafoods while mom tries to find the sell-by date on a plastic tub of organic baby arugula.

It’s not enough that the gods are omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent — no, they have to have our undivided attention, too.

It’s sad. But also amusing. For a while, anyway.

“Wow, this is an adult human being. Second richest in the world — No. 1 until the shitposting trouser stain started dicking around with a new toy without reading the owner’s manual — and he’s acting out like a hormonal teenager with a marble-sized nose zit and two left feet fuming at all the cool kids dancing on TikTok.”

Just wait until Orange Julius Caesar softshoes into the multimedia spotlight again today. His Lardship Musk Mellon Esq. will probably try to buy the Internets and shut them down.

I don’t know who’d loan him the money for that indulgence. Not Orange J, that’s for sure. Fool needs a new pair of size-7 dancing shoes.

Time travel

October 8, 2022

Truckin’, like the doo-dah man.

• Editor’s note: It’s a gray, gloomy day here at El Rancho Pendejo, and Hal Walter’s road-trip tale has put me in mind of my own meditation from the spring of 2000, when the vile Crusty County weather had me thinking about snorting that long white line to wherever.

“I have been buggered to near death by the clock.” — Jim Harrison in “The Beige Dolorosa,” from the novella collection “Julip”

“How do I shut this alarm off?” my wife asked some years back. Her sports watch was cheeping incessantly, like a baby bird in a sack of crack.

“Like this,” I replied, snatching the watch from her, placing it on the kitchen floor and pounding it into a flattened silence with a claw hammer. We both laughed, but warily; killing time just isn’t that easy.

Still, when you see time limping along like it does in a snowbound April in the Colorado mountains, scraping the slush off its boots on the welcome mat of spring, there arises a murderous desire to put it out of its misery. So Shannon has begun hiding the hammers as I glare at the clock, as if I could will its crawling hands into picking up the pace, spinning me up some sunshine.

• • •

“We’re going to be late,” I warned my friends Hal and Mary as we dawdled first over stout, then over coffee, in a succession of Bibleburg bistros. It was my 46th birthday, and we were headed to Colorado College for a poetry reading by one of my favorite authors, Jim Harrison. Harrison seems the sort to bark at nitwits who interrupt his work, and I wanted his autograph, not his antipathy.

Jim Harrison laid his Jim Hancock on my copy of “Warlock,” though it was not among his favorite works.

As it turned out, we were right on time, and Harrison was late. A student of Zen Buddhism with his own temporal compulsions, Harrison announced: “I’m not a long reader. This will be exactly 52 minutes.” A koan for a birthday present.

Frankly, I’d have settled for a little less light and a little more warmth. Spring brings Colorado the heavy snows that we used to get in winter like everybody else, and the way my mental batteries were running down under the gray-flannel skies had me convinced that I was solar-powered.

My last escape attempt, a mid-March road trip to a cycling festival in California, was too short and not nearly sweet enough. I’ve been contemplating another to someplace where the locals’ knowledge of snow is limited to what they’ve been able to glean from the Encyclopedia Britannica, but you can’t pilot a Toyota truck to the Virgin Islands, not even in four-wheel drive.

And then there’s the expense. The rising price of gasoline aside, it’s not always possible or desirable to sleep in a pickup, which lacks certain amenities — like a toilet, shower, sink, stove, furnace and elbow room, especially when the camper shell is stuffed fore to aft with a bicycle, a cooler full of beer and a day pack crammed with computer gear and drawing tools.

Even if you pack camping gear and spend your nights outside the truck, you’re doomed to an occasional Motel 666 if for no other reason than hygiene, an impulse that will cost you anywhere from $30 to $60 a pop, depending upon your ZIP code at the time.

So lately I’ve been eyeballing used RVs and wondering whether I’m old enough to own one. This is not unlike like cigar-smoking; you have to be of a certain age to pull it off without looking ridiculous.

Too, as a cyclist who has played mirror-tag with many a blue-haired land-yacht captain over the years, the notion leaves me feeling a little like a Lakota warrior applying to join Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

And the entry fee for the RV lifestyle is a high curb to hop — even an elderly, smallish Toyota RV can run from five to ten large, while free-lance cycling journalism pays on the small side.

• • • 

In the essay “Going Places,” from his collection “Just Before Dark,” Harrison advises: “Do not scorn day trips. You can use them to avoid nervous collapse.” So with a light snow falling and the promise of more on the way, I jumped into my ’83 Toyota 4WD and headed north to talk to a guy who had a used, slide-in, pop-up camper for sale.

As I bounced crazily down our steep, corrugated goat path to the county road — this truck, which under a previous owner carried a camper, has springs apparently salvaged from a buckboard — I realized I’d forgotten my watch. A moment of dismay, then satori; I had more than enough time to make the noon appointment, and there was nothing of pressing urgency requiring a timepiece, so screw it.

So, after checking out the camper — affordable and nicely minimalist, with a cabover bed, a small sink and stove, a pedestal table and bench, and a furnace — I spent the afternoon idling around downtown Bibleburg, where it was not snowing, the roads were paved, and distractions were available in variety.

Drank a pint of Guinness and ate a burger in Jack Quinn’s; looked for Harrison books in the cavernous used-book store Gateways; sipped a tall Americano in a Starbucks staffed by two pleasant young women chattering away like magpies. Then I took my sweet time getting home, and not just because I was following a snowplow and an 18-wheeler up a slushy Hardscrabble Cañon.

Again, Harrison, in “The Beige Dolorosa” from “Julip”: “The clock is the weapon with which we butcher our lives.”

The character who writes this line on an index card — an academic rebelling against the tyranny of the clock as he comes to terms with a vastly altered life — then wraps his watch around the cord of his Big Ben electric clock and dangles both in the toilet, flushing and laughing.

He continues: “The damnable watch still worked. I put it on the floor, stepped up on the toilet seat and jumped, smashing the watch to bits. It occurred to me that I was getting a little excitable, so I took the remnants of the two timepieces outside and peed on them to complete the scene appropriately. I reached back in the cabin and turned off the light, the better to see the stars. They were so dense they made the sky look flossy, almost a fog of stars which had drawn infinitely closer to me than ever before, as if my destruction of time had made me a friendlier object for their indeterminate powers.”

Smash your watches. Pee on your clocks. Go look at the stars.

Chili today, hot tamale

January 27, 2022

Sun’s out, but my guns are still in.

I don’t remember when or where I first heard that old gag. “Chili today, hot tamale.” It sounds like something the old man would’ve said.

He picked up some Spanish down in Panama and he’d toss fragments of it at me and my sis as a call-and-response joke come bedtime. We had to repeat each phrase after he uttered it. (“Repitan ustedes.”)

“Hasta la vista.”

“¿Como se llama?”

“Buenos noches.”

This last became “Buenos snowshoes” at some point. Lord, what white people will do to someone else’s language.

Anyway, it’s chilly today, so I plan to make chili today, from a Pierre Franey recipe. No tamales, though. Eso es demasiado como el trabajo.

Cold comfort

December 11, 2021

The sun peeks over the Sandias.

Speaking of filthy weather, looks like I made the right call when I skipped cyclocross nats in Illinois.

USA Cycling announced via Twatter this morning that powerful winds had caused “heavy damage to both the course and the venue,” and that the industry races would be canceled and other events delayed and shortened.

Still, could be worse. This is apparently a love tap from a series of storms that roared through the Midwest and South like Sherman marching to the sea.

Kentucky may have gotten the worst of it, though a tornado in Illinois ripped open an Amazon fulfillment center like a wassail-crazed holiday reveler taking a box cutter to a package.

“About half of it’s missing, it’s gone,” a fire department captain told The New York Times. The building was about 400,000 square feet. One wonders how many car condos were parked nearby, their occupants grabbing a bit of shuteye between holiday shifts.

Here in The Duck! City we awakened to temps in the teens, but the usual blue skies appear poised to prevail. The furnace is running like a cyclocrosser with a 60-mph tailwind, but at least the roof is still on.

Piss on the dogs and call in the fire

October 14, 2021

Space: the final frontier. (Some restrictions apply.)

What’s that ominous rumble? O buggah — it’s the Trane XR80 roaring to hideous life astride the cooling carcass of summer.

Mid-October is a wee bit early for this sort of thing. But these are strange times, and getting stranger by the minute.

Captain Kirk rode one of Jeffy Bozos’ dick-missiles to the edge of space yesterday and returned to tell us all how glorious it is to be a wealthy white man with friends in high places. A first-class ticket for Aer Dingus is just one more thing you can’t afford, suckers. Now get back to work.

“Live long and prosper,” murmur the Vulcans. But they’re being ironic, as usual.

Either that or they’re talking to the Vogons, whose Constructor Fleet should be popping round to start work on that hyperspatial express route any day now.

Resistance is useless!

And now, here’s Patrick with the weather

April 17, 2021

The maple shares the eastern horizon with blue sky
and a few clouds … for now.

The furnace was chugging away when I woke up this morning. This, after some days of riding around and about in knickers and arm warmers. (Not the furnace. Me.)

Our weather widget in the kitchen told me the temp outside was smack dab at freezing — 32° Fahrenheit. No wonder I was wearing pants, socks, and a long-sleeved shirt, I mused.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla says she would like her meals delivered.

In my office Miss Mia Sopaipilla was tucked away in the Situation Room, monitoring developments, largely through closed eyelids.

The forecast calls for snow, which some of you are already enjoying. Any inclination I might have to bitch about it is tempered by the ongoing grim news about the state of the Rio Grande, which is likely to be drier than the proverbial popcorn fart this summer. Pinning our hopes on a stout monsoon season seems about like asking Santa Claus to lay a few bazillion gallons on us. We have not been good girls and boys.

Speaking of water, if you are fortunate enough to find yourself restricted to the great indoors by inclement weather you might have a sip from this week’s episode of Desert Oracle Radio. Ken Layne discusses the “accidental miracles” that spared so much of the American Southwest’s mountains and deserts from growth for growth’s sake, which Ed Abbey dubbed “the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Then change channels to KLZR-FM in Weirdcliffe, where my man Hal Walter — who seems to be Mister Multimedia these days — chats with Gary Taylor about the joys of running and other things.

Hal is enjoying a bit of snow himself up to Weirdcliffe rather than running his ass off at the Desert Donkey Dash in Tombstone, Ariz., where the forecast is for a high in the 70s. If he has any regrets about this as he feeds the woodstove he is keeping them to himself.

Cold deck

March 16, 2021

This little canyon stair-steps up to the north off Foothills Trail 401.
A bit of bouldering is required in spots.

This is why I always shunned the casinos while in Sin City for Interbike.

I gambled on a nice long hike yesterday, betting that today would be better for the old bikey ridey.

Wrong.

Sure enough, something snuck in over the Sandias.

Yesterday was most enjoyable, two hours of up and down and all around, with a bit of light jogging thrown in here and there as the spirit moved. Rolled up the sleeves. Probably could’ve worn shorts.

Today I gnawed on a chilly wind from behind a handlebar for an hour and the nicest thing I can say about that is that I was not indoors. Long sleeves. The knickers and fingerless gloves proved unwise. Airborne allergens caressed my nostrils the way a peeler does a potato.

And now the weatherperson says snow is on the way? Snow? Who dealt this mess?

Getting wood in Weirdcliffe

February 22, 2021

The fireplace in Weirdcliffe, before we installed a Lopi woodstove insert.

When Texas sank back into the Ice Age, I was reminded of the good old days on our wind-scoured rockpile outside Weirdcliffe, Colorado.

There, the power only went out whenever it was inconvenient. And it usually would stay off for an hour or two at minimum, which was the time it took for a utility guy from Cañon City to flip a switch somewhere.

We learned early on that not much works during winter at 8,800 feet in the ass-end of nowhere if you don’t have power. No water, no cooking, and most important, no heat.

I remembered the joys of a heat-free home from my stint in a 9×40 singlewide trailer in Greeley back in 1974. Its oil furnace was forever seizing up in the middle of a winter night, and there’s nothing that clarifies the mind for higher education quite as well as the backsplash from a frozen toilet when you get up at stupid-thirty to offload a sixer of the long-neck Falstaffs you enjoyed for dinner.

Our private road. I went backwards on this stretch in 4WD one evening. I wasn’t scared or nothin’, but somebody shit on my seat. | Photo: Hal Walter

So on our hillside, we kept ourselves prepared. There were canned goods and jerrycans of water in the hall closet, along with a Coleman two-burner and several 1-pound propane bottles for emergency cookery. And we had several candle lanterns and flashlights at the ready because this shit never happens in broad daylight on a weekday.

But the smartest thing we did was have a Lopi woodstove insert installed in our fireplace, along with buying a chainsaw and ax. When you heat with wood, it warms you twice — while you’re cutting it, and while you’re burning it.

And speaking of getting wood, yes, yes, yes, it’s time for the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I recorded this one in the Comedy Closet, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music by Infernal Hound Sound; sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearance by Shel Silverstein.